One of the country’s premier dance competition companies, Celebrity Dance, has made some exciting additions for this coming season. Two professional dancers and experienced teachers will join Celebrity’s faculty – Jackie Nowicki and Chaz Wolcott – and both plan to come to inspire and educate the hundreds of dancers who participate in Celebrity’s competitions and events.
Nowicki, originally of Chicago, Illinois, received her BFA in Dance from Western Michigan University and currently dances with Pilobolus Dance Theater. She also teaches all over the New York dance scene, including at Peridance Capezio Center, Steps on Broadway and Broadway Dance Center. In addition, she is choreographer and artistic director of NOW Dance Project. With Celebrity, Nowicki will be leading classes in her unique mix of modern dance and explorative contemporary.
Wolcott received his BFA in Dance from Oklahoma City University and is currently a performer and choreographer based in New York City. He has appeared on So You Think You Can Dance and in the movie version of Disney’s Newsies: The Broadway Musical. Wolcott will bring his fun musical theater classes to Celebrity this year.
Here, Dance Informa speaks with Nowicki and Wolcott on what dancers can expect from their classes and why they’re looking forward to being a part of the Celebrity Dance family.
How would you describe your teaching style and class? What do you hope dancers take away from your class?
“I would like to think that my class challenges each dancer to approach his/her movement with sensitivity and awareness. The warm-up invigorates the body through alignment exercise, stability and strength training, and the use of weight shifting in order to prepare physically and mentally for center work. Using task-based improv, I try to encourage the exploration and release of habitual patterns while finding a deeper connection to our own aesthetic. My movement phrases then push each dancer to confront his/her athleticism, develop a relationship with musical choices and expand his/her artistry.
I hope each dancer walks away from my classes feeling challenged and full. I hope they feel wonderfully exhausted and artistically inspired. I would love for a dancer to leave my class eager to continue building his/her technique and excited to explore his/her artistry further.”
“My teaching style is fun, and I am encouraging of all students who take my class. I like to blend technique and performance and place an equal importance on both. Finding a way to tell a story to an audience is the ultimate goal, so I hope dancers take away the tools and confidence they need to be smart storytellers.”
What do you like most about being a dance teacher? What’s the most rewarding part, and what’s the hardest part?
“I would say that my favorite part about being a dance teacher is having the opportunity to open my students’ eyes to their own greatness. It’s when I help challenge them to meet their goals, find their own artistic voices and experience their full potential. In my opinion, the most rewarding part about being a dance teacher is watching my students realize that the best versions of themselves is found when they trust in their uniqueness and let go of expectations. Going along with that, the hardest part about being a dance teacher is believing in myself enough to practice what I preach. In an industry where we are constantly staring in the mirror at our own insecurities, trusting in my artistic voice can prove extremely challenging, but it can also be the most rewarding journey as an artist and teacher.”
“I love watching students have breakthroughs when trying something they are not completely comfortable with. I try to create an encouraging environment in class, where students feel free to explore and try new things.”
Who have been some of your inspirations when it comes to teaching?
“I pull inspiration from many different people in my dancing and teaching. My ultimate idol is Gene Kelly, so I think my style is infused with his athleticism and showmanship. I have a great deal of adoration for choreographers like Bob Fosse, Andy Blankenbuehler, Joshua Bergasse, Al Blackstone and Gillian Lynne.”
“I have had so many influential teachers throughout my life! I began my dance career at The Center for Dance in Westment, IL, and my teachers there lit a spark in me that has never gone out. They believed in who I was, both as a dancer and human, and their knowledge and trust began my journey as both a dancer and teacher. I then went on to study at Western Michigan University, where I received my Bachelor or Fine Arts in Dance, and the incredible faculty there cultivated my artistry and pushed me out of my comfort zone. They challenged me to trust my choices and explore movement in new and exciting ways. They gave me the courage to stand in front of a room of dancers and share my own knowledge and experiences and truly jump-started my teaching career by making me an adjunct faculty member of the dance department as soon as I graduated. Some of the other major influential artists who have helped shape my own teaching style are Mike Esperanza, Max Stone, Brice Mousset, Marlena Wolfe and Robert Battle.”
Why are you excited to be joining the Celebrity Dance faculty? What will you be teaching?
“I am so excited to join this fantastic group of artists at Celebrity. I know many dancers don’t get to train in musical theater, so I am ecstatic to bring a new style to many students and to encourage young dancers to focus on storytelling and entertainment.”
“I am beyond excited to be joining the incredible faculty line-up at Celebrity because they are not only amazing dancers themselves, but they truly are a group of innovative, genuine and knowledgeable artists who put the students in the room before themselves. Celebrity has developed a family that supports one anther and believes in a mission of making each convention about the dancers’ experience. They want each participant to feel important, and I look forward to joining them on that journey.”
What advice do you have for dancers who are going to partake in a Celebrity Dance event?
“The advice I would give to any dancers stepping into my class is to let go of expectation and live in the moment. Acknowledge that each class is a unique experience you will only have once, so allow yourself to confront the uncomfortable moments and grow from them. My class is very difficult because I want to show you that hard work and determination are worth it. I want you to sweat and struggle because the reward at the end is that much sweeter.”
“Soak it up! I grew up as a convention kid, and I think the lessons learned at a convention help pave your way through life as a dancer. Learning lots of different styles from new teachers and being pushed to perform them immediately is how you learn how to audition for professional jobs. Convention is a fabulous training ground for pre-professional dancers, so soak it up! Be open to the experience, and learn all you can from it!”
To learn more about Celebrity Dance and all its faculty members, and to find the next Celebrity event nearest you, visit dancecelebrity.com.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.